Introduction: Words and Pictures
Is there a connection between food and democracy? Well, originally the question was – Is there a connection between people who produce food and people who organize for democracy? In conducting interviews for In Motion Magazine, I had noticed that often there was. But why? This thought led to questions about food systems, about concepts horizontal and vertical – to questions about networks and empires.
This essay is composed of photographs, quotations, and thoughts which have shuffled themselves in my mind for the last several years, as I followed one question to another. During that time, I have traveled to interview, photograph, and learn from grassroots organizations and community members, then returned home to transcribe (often with help on translation,) edit, and communicate back with people for clarifications and approval.
In this process, as I went from one person to another in an almost stream of consciousness way, interviews and photos became inseparable. Particular photographs became symbols of things I was discovering – sometimes immediately, often in retrospect.
On some occasions, I would take a photo because someone had brought me to a place and set me up for a picture and a story, and then not realize the significance of it until later. Similarly, with interviews, much of the meaning emerged later as I worked to publish them. As much as an interview is best when about preparation and then being quiet and listening to where the conversation is going, I have never ceased to be amazed at how it is much later that I realize the depth of what I was told. That’s why this essay flows up to and through quotations and photographs – the story can’t be told without them.
Fine, you say, but what were the people doing? What were they saying? Well, the scope of people’s living history is immense and though in the interviews people were kind enough to share brief glimpses as well as collective and personal analysis, I can’t adequately tell you that in an essay. But I can trace what did emerge for me as I went from one interview to another; how what I was being told was an understanding of food and democracy which went way beyond what I had ever understood.